It’s now been exactly one week since I arrived home after spending an incredible five weeks overseas.
During this time I travelled to London, Paris, Venice, Bologna, Verona, Siena, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre & Milan and had some amazing experiences.
It was honestly the trip of a lifetime…
From partaking in study at the UAL: University of the Arts London, to doing loads of walking in Paris, a day trip to Geneva, riding a gondola in Venice, to having some time on my own in Tuscany to work, reflect & explore, to visiting the colosseum in 40 degree heat in Rome, to riding Vespa’s in the pouring rain in Florence, to lying on the beach in Cinque Terre and shopping up a storm in Milan – it’s safe to say that it was an absolutely fantastic five weeks of travel.
As with any trip that I do, I love to share it all with you not only on social media (many of you commented and sent messages saying how much you loved the updates!), but I also love to do a wrap up blog post that outlines exactly where I travelled to, where I stayed, fun things I did and recommendations that I have for others.
So here goes…
London was my first port of call for the five week trip, and it was here where I participated in a Digital Marketing course with UAL: University of the Arts London.
Being the owner of a business that specialises in social media and digital marketing, it’s really important for me to be constantly up-skilling and learning new ways to work with clients.
This is a course that I’d wanted to participate in for some time now, and was so glad that they were running it around the same time that I wanted to travel. The course ran for five days, and I was in London for a total of eight (i.e not long enough!).
I am literally obsessed with London!
This was my fourth time visiting this city, and I’m being honest when I say that as soon as the plane touched down in Heathrow, I felt so comfortable and at home.
During this time I stayed in student accommodation that the University provided (nothing too fancy but I had my own room & bathroom and it was in a fantastic/central London location).
- Riding Santander bikes around the city. My friend who lives in London & I did this so often, and it was a great way to see the city.
- Visiting Brick Lane. I was lucky enough to be staying in this area, and I loved it! It’s a part of London that I hadn’t visited before and was an absolute highlight.
- Going shopping on Portobello Road and wandering the streets of Notting Hill & Kensington to admire the beautiful houses. I also took part in a photoshoot in Notting Hill which was really special.
- Having dinner at Sketch. This was the most expensive meal I had on the trip, but was 100% worth every cent!
- Visiting the Dior exhibition at the V&A Museum. A sold out exhibition that I was lucky enough to visit using my friends membership card (shhh, don’t tell them!).
Tips for visiting London
- Get yourself an Opal card & ride the Underground. This is my favourite way to get around London as the Underground is super easy to use and very quick too!
- Visit in summertime if you can. London in summer truly is something special. It doesn’t get dark until at least 10pm, and there is SO MUCH happening in the city, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
- Visiting London is not cheap, but they actually have a lot of free attractions and things to do, so definitely check these out.
- See a stageshow – this is a MUST.
After spending eight days in London, it was time to head to Paris to meet up with Mum and Dad, and spend time exploring this magical city.
Previous to this trip, I’d only been to Paris once before (for the day) about six years ago. It was during this trip that we quickly saw the main sights, so I was eager to have more time to explore the different neighbourhoods and live a bit more like a local.
During our time here we stayed in a beautiful Airbnb, which was located between the 7th & 15th arrondissements. It was the perfect place to park ourselves for our time in Paris, as it was a lively residential area, close to some great cafes, restaurants, metro stations and boutique shopping (aka my heaven).
- Taking time to really explore the different arrondissement’s and live like a local.
- Visiting the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area and Latin Quarter. We spent an entire day doing this and wished we’d had more time. Having lunch at the iconic Les Deux Magots, which once had a reputation as the rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite of the city was also a highlight!
- Seeing the Moulin Rouge. This was a lot better than I expected it to be, and is definitely a must do (at least once!)
- Exploring Montmartre, which was truly stunning. We took part in a walking tour of this area and had an incredible guide who taught us so much about its history.
- Spending the day at Versailles and Claude Monet’s gardens. We visited both of these iconic places in one day as part of a tour, as they are located just outside of the city. Claude Monet’s gardens absolutely blew me away, and were so beautiful! Versailles was just as stunning and as grand as I thought it would be too!
Tips for visiting Paris
- Book tours when you’re wanting to visit key landmarks. We did this for our trip to the Eiffel Tower (just meant that we didn’t have to line up and got to go straight up to the top), Versailles and Claude Monet’s gardens.
- Use the metro. It’s super easy to use, and is very handy especially when you don’t feel like walking in the heat. Get a 3 or 5 day metro pass as this is very cost effective.
- Do walking tours when you can. This is an affordable way to explore the city and learn more about the different areas which you may like to revisit later.
- Be careful with bags etc when at train stations (especially at Gare Du Nord – long story short, my Mum was looking after all of our bags whist my Dad and I were sorting out our train tickets to Italy, when she was approached by two men. One distracted her by asking her things in French, and the other took my backpack and started to walk off! Luckily she noticed and screamed so he dropped it and ran off – moral of the story is to keep your bags on you at all times!!)
From Paris it was time to head to Italy!
We were meant to be catching the train from Paris – Milan – Venice, however our Paris – Milan train was cancelled, which meant we had to travel Paris – Geneva – Milan – Venice! We weren’t too upset about it, as it meant we got to see some BEAUTIFUL views of Switzerland on the train, and spent a few hours in Geneva!
We arrived in Venice late at night and travelled by vaporetto (water taxi) from the train station, to our apartment. Standing outside on the vaporetto after spending all day on the train, admiring the gorgeous canals was an absolute highlight for us (we were also a little delirious too!).
We all absolutely LOVED Venice.
Yes, it was packed with tourists, but it’s also packed with so much culture and history – and there is so much to see and explore.
- Exploring the area by foot. There is honestly so much to see, and it really isn’t hard to get lost.
- Palazzo Ducale, St Mark’s Square & Saint Mark’s Basilica. We took part in a walking tour that took us to all of these places (we got to skip the line for the Basilica which was great considering how busy it was).
- We took a day trip to Murano and Burano. Murano is famous for it’s glass making, so we visited a couple of the best glass making factories, and Burano is known for its coloured houses, and it was here where we had a delicious seafood lunch!
Tips for visiting Venice
- Try to bring a bag that isn’t too big/one that you can carry over bridges. I learnt this the hard way lets just say that…
- Do a food walking tour. We did one of these, which showed us some delicious places to eat which we definitely wouldn’t have found on our own.
- Definitely visit Murano & Burano – you won’t regret it.
- Yes it is very busy and touristy, so try and eat at places where there aren’t waiters and staff out the front trying to pull you inside. Explore the many hidden alleyways and streets for good places to eat.
- Book a canal view room if you can! I did this for my last night in Venice and it was just so beautiful to be able to sit at the window and watch the people below. They also provided me with the most delicious breakfast in bed too!
After a few days in Venice, I bid farewell to Mum and Dad who were off on a 10 day cruise and headed to Bologna in Tuscany!
For the next 10 days I was on my own, and I seriously couldn’t wait!
I wanted to base myself in Bologna because I’d been told that it was a city worth visiting, and it also has a major rail station, with connections to many Italian cities and towns.
The idea for this week on my own was to relax, explore and really immerse myself in the Italian way of life. I found myself a homely Airbnb, which was located in Bologna’s University district, meaning it was lively, safe and central.
I spent the first few days visiting the key attractions in the city, and getting familiar with my surroundings.
I then took a couple of day trips, one to Rimini which is on the coast, and another to Verona (the home of Romeo & Juliet!).
Bologna, Rimini & Verona Highlights
- Bologna has some incredible eateries, restaurants and cafes, and they’re all located super close to one another, meaning that you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to eat.
- The first thing I did when I arrived in Bologna was go on a guided walking tour (can you tell we did a lot of walking whilst overseas?). This was a great way for me to get my bearings of the city, and learn more about the places I wanted to visit.
- I was really craving some time on the coast as it was just SO hot, so headed to Rimini for the day. I wanted to visit this particular coastal town because it’s known for being popular with the locals, and not so much with international tourists. It was here where I spent an entire day relaxing on a sun lounger enjoying the sun and sea – and was a day I will never forget!
- Verona was absolutely magical and another trip highlight for me. I actually would have liked to have spent a few nights in Verona, so will definitely be adding that to the list for next time. I honestly spent a good 45 minutes just sitting at the Romeo & Juliet balcony area people watching and reading all the love letters on the wall.
Ohhhh Siena….where do I begin?
Visiting this incredible place was most definitely a highlight for me. Not only did I get to experience it with one of my best friends, but we stayed in the best Airbnb I’ve ever stayed in (click here to see a video of the view!).
We were in Siena for two days, and believe me when I say that next time I’ll definitely be staying for much longer!
It was here where we explored Piazza Del Campo, The Duomo and it’s museum (highly recommend climbing to the top!), as well as just strolled through the streets.
- Visit Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico. Not only is this church magnificent in the simplicity of its design and architecture, but it also holds many relics of St. Catherine of Siena, who is my Confirmation Saint.
- Try and have dinner at least one evening at a restaurant that overlooks the city/Tuscany region. We stumbled across a fantastic restaurant on our last evening which had the most incredible view and it was worth every cent.
- Gelateria’s in Siena have some incredible and very different flavours – so try them if you can! I absolutely loved their mint, basil & lime gelato.
Tips for visiting Tuscany
- Tuscany is one of the most beautiful parts of the world – and each town/region is known for having different food specialities – so definitely try them as there are so many different types of pasta, meat and cheeses to choose from.
- Italy (and Tuscany in particular) can be quite hot in the summer, so factor this in when booking your accommodation (check if they have air-conditioning or fans).
- I guarantee you’ll want to spend weeks here – so prepare yourself!!
It was in Rome where I met back up with Mum and Dad after they finished their cruise, and it was safe to say that after just a few hours of being in this city, we had placed it at the top of our list of places to visit next time we were in Europe!
Rome was incredible.
Yes it’s old, yes it’s a little grubby in places – but that’s what we loved about it!
It had this fantastic “lived in” feel that we just didn’t get when in Paris. Oh, and I definitely reminisced on how much I used to love the Lizzie McGuire movie as a kid…
- There are many attractions in Rome, but due to the heat and how spread out the city is, we picked just a few key ones to focus on for this particular trip. This included Saint Peter’s Square and Basilica (the Basilica was ammmmmmazing), Capitoline Hill with views of the Roman Forum and Coliseum (we visited these places in 40 degree heat!), the Trevi Fountain & the Spanish Steps.
- We took part in two food walking tours whilst in Rome and loved them both! The first was in the morning, which included a visit to market stalls, delicatessens, and cute cafes, and another in the evening which included a trip to an underground wine cellar (AMAZING), and some fantastic hole in the wall restaurants. I highly recommend doing tours like these as they are a great way to see the city (and who doesn’t love eating good food and walking it off at the same time?)
- We stayed in Trastevere, which is a funky, bohemian area that clings to its centuries-old, working-class roots. It’s known for traditional and innovative trattorias, craft beer pubs and artisan shops, and I would definitely stay here again.
Tips for visiting Rome
- Because it was so hot (40+ degrees), we didn’t walk as much as we did in other cities, and instead opted for travelling in taxi’s and Uber’s, especially when we had to be at tours etc at a specific time.
- Wear comfortable shoes! One of the most charming aspects about Rome’s urban typography are its cobblestone streets, but uneven stones can take a toll on your feet.
- Buy Vatican tickets online before you travel. We did this (through a tour company) which meant we got to skip the queue. It was well worth the extra money.
- There are fountains everywhere in Rome (and the water is delicious and refreshing), so carry a reusable drink bottle with you everywhere.
Six years ago I travelled to Florence as part of a University exchange, and had the absolute time of my life (read more about it here).
Florence was one place in Italy that I was most excited to visit – as I was looking forward to revisiting my old stomping ground.
And it did not disappoint!
Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and there is just so much to see.
- Doing a tour of Tuscany by Vespa! Yes it was raining on the day that we did this, and we were given the worst Vespa in the group (it got a flat tyre and had a terrible clutch), but we had the absolute time of our lives with so many laughs!
- The shopping. Oh the shopping in Florence is to die for! You can either choose to shop at the usual high street stores, or do what we did and visit the unique boutiques, antique shops, and the leather and gold shops (see more on that below)
- See the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo. This is an experience you do not want to miss, and is most definitely worth the small walk there.
- Visit the Boboli Gardens. These gardens are one of the greatest open-air museums in Florence and the amphitheater really is something special. The perfect time to visit is definitely early morning or late evening.
Tips for visiting Florence
- Go to The Mall – the home of some great luxury designer outlet stores! It’s here where I found the shoes of my dreams…
- Don’t buy your gold on the Ponte Vecchio. We almost made this mistake, before doing a little research on Google and discovering that it just wasn’t worth the money. Instead, we found an incredible gold shop (called Oro Due on Via Lambertesca) that was a few streets away from the Ponte Vecchio that was owned and run by a Florentine family.
- Same goes for leather! There are leather markets in San Lorenzo, but the prices are ridiculous and the product is not genuine. Instead, we visited the Scuola del Cuoio (leather school), which definitely delivered the goods!
Meaning “five lands,” Cinque Terre is an intricately woven web of terraced hillsides, colourful cliff-side villages, and interconnected trails and is not a place to be missed.
After spending time in the heat of the city, it was nice to head to the coast for some sea breeze and sun!
Whilst it is quite touristy, it truly is magical and worth a visit for a few days.
We stayed in Vernazza, which is the fourth town and actually loved staying here because it was quite small which meant that tourists normally cleared out in the evening, meaning it was just us and the locals!
Tips for visiting Cinque Terre
- If you’re wanting a day at the beach, head to Monterosso and hire a sun-bed and umbrella for the day. We paid about 20 euros each for the day and it was well worth it.
- If you’re planning on doing the trek to each town, I recommend you do one section each day, as the trek is a lot harder than most people think. This way you can take your time in each town and really soak it all in.
- Don’t just book accommodation based on the view. We made this mistake with our accomodation in Vernazza, which had an incredible view of the beach, but was very small and didn’t have an adequate bathroom!
I’ll be honest in saying that I had quite low expectations of Milan, having heard from others that there wasn’t too much to do – but boy were they WRONG.
We absolutely loved our time in Milan (and not just because of the shopping)!
- This is THE place for shopping. If you’re a shopaholic like me, than you’ll be in heaven in Milan.
- Il Duomo (Milan Cathedral). You will honestly be in awe when you see this cathedral from the outside (and inside).
- Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper – we visited this as part of a tour and it was honestly breathtaking. Would definitely go back and revisit.
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – featuring luxury shops and elegant cafés, even if you don’t spend and money here, it’s still a great place to visit and admire.
- Pasta making! We did a great pasta making class on our last day in Milan where we made our own ravioli and tagliatelle – absolute highlight.
GENERAL OVERSEAS TIPS
- Get an overseas sim card. I ordered mine from SimsDirect before I left Australia, and put it in my phone as soon as a touched down in London. This got me through the five weeks overseas with plenty of data to use on WhatsApp/social media.
- Book Airbnb’s & apartments where you can. We didn’t stay in any hotels whilst on the trip, and loved staying in gorgeous apartments in residential areas. Definitely added to the whole experience.
- Pack light. I ended up having three different suitcases across the whole trip…that’s all I’m going to say on this matter.
I had a lot of questions whilst I was overseas about some of the amazing accommodation that we stayed in. If you’re interested, click the links below!
As you can probably tell by the length of this blog post, and from my Instagram feed, this trip was absolutely incredible – and was one that I’ll definitely never forget.
I miss having a croissant and coffee for breakfast, being in the 40+ degree heat (honestly I do!), spending quality time with Mum & Dad, seeing parts of the world I haven’t seen before, as well as being able to have time out from the daily grind to think, reflect and plan for the months, years ahead!
If you’re wanting to know more specifics, or have any other questions – please feel free to get in touch!